Arts & Entertainment

Stretching Your Budget

Mira Nair

Lesson time 19:16 min

Never reveal your struggle. Mira teaches you how to maximize your resources as an independent filmmaker—however limited they may be.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Don’t Reveal Your Struggle • Prep to Maximize the Scene • Plan Your Set Pieces • Use the Natural Elements • Serve the Story • Weigh the Value of Your Choices


In the beginning, I didn't have producers. I was my own producer, and I had to cut my cloth to size literally from the word go, you know. And I still do that in different ways and in different scale. When I'm budgeting the picture, I'm seeing what costs what, you know, how I have to cut corners as we always have to, you know, whether it's in shooting days or it's in locations. I then decide that I'm not going to let people see my struggle with money. I'm never going to apologize for the quality of my work. I am going to just cut my cloth in a very interesting way to size. So I'm looking at the screenplay and I'm thinking, OK, we have three big action sequences, or three set pieces as they are often known. And how can I do that justice in every comprehensive way so that you will never think that I am a struggling, apologizing independent filmmaker? You know, because I also grew up in a time in India when technical things for films were much less sophisticated, and the films, if they emerged out of the country at all, really looked, you know, that lousy third world feeling, in the sense that, you know, they just did not meet-- now it's a very different vibe in India. Technically, we have the labs. We have incredible resources like any other place in the world. But in the beginning, we always identified an Indian film in some way by its lack of technical prowess, and I never wanted to be in that category. So that even in "Salaam Bombay!" when I may not have had money to do post-production, I would choose to use all the money in how to shoot it correctly, how to use 35 millimeter, how to light it, how to diffuse it, how to do all of that, so that people would not know my struggle. There is nothing more valuable than prep for a film. Prep in every department, not just rehearsing actors, but really designing a scene, designing a shot, designing a complete sequence. There is never any substitute for the prep one needs, and that, also, it's cheap time. I have this phrase, you know, it's cheap time. We can afford to really sit there and put our heads to it, and think in ink, as a friend of mine said, you know. Really do the prep so that we know how to maximize-- that's another favorite word of mine-- how to maximize the moment of shooting, how to maximize the scene, you know. So another trick I have is to create a bank of imagery, you know, because for me, I'm always thinking of how to create time passage, how to create interludes, how to create music sequences, and I'm very visually attuned. So, and I also work with extraordinarily talented cinematographers who teach me really, sometimes, how to see, or who really grasp what excites me about the extraordinariness of ordinary life, you know. So whatever people are doing, whatever they are shooting, my two cinematographers or one, if something else happens on the side that is beautiful, you know, a bird could land on a telephone wire, right by you as you're shooting, you know, a...

About the Instructor

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Mira Nair approaches directing with the “heart of a poet and the skin of an elephant,” spurred by rejection and fighting to bring uncompromising stories to film. In the Golden Lion-winning director’s MasterClass, learn to make a big impact on a small budget in film production, evoke the best from actors and nonactors, and protect your creative vision so you tell the story that can only come from you.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

Mira Nair

The Oscar-nominated director teaches her methods for directing powerful performances, maximizing budgets, and bringing authentic stories to life.

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